août 14, 2023 Live from the road

Chicago

Reported by Brahmata Michael

The 2023 Parliament of the World's Religions commenced on the morning of August 14 with the opening plenary. The Peace Runners were delighted and honoured to be able to carry the Peace Torch onto the stage and to stand with the leaders of many faiths from all over the world.

There were many people in attendance at the opening and well over 7,000 people attended this year's Parliament.

The 1993 Parliament of the World's Religions was held in Chicago. Sri Chinmoy was invited by the organizers to open the convocation by meditating silently for seven minutes. Those in attendance were struck by the silence and power of this meditation, one account from the occasion said; "He brought heaven down to earth."

The first Parliament of the World's Religions took place in 1893 in Chicago. Swami Vivekananda travelled from India to make the now famous opening address which began with "Sisters and Brothers of America..."

This immortal statement was met with immediate applause. The speech called for religious tolerance and an end to fanaticism. It stands as one of the most significant moments in the history of the interfaith movement.

130 years later, the Peace Runners stand beside a photograph of this spiritual giant.

The Sri Chinmoy Centre hosted a booth where they kept a permanent Peace Torch. The booth featured the book "Listen to Nature" by Sri Chinmoy with a foreword from Jane Goodall.

Vasudha from San Diego and Pragati from New York offered an outdoor meditation session based on the book.

Our dear friend Dileepkumar Thankappan was at the opening ceremony of the Peace Run in New York and we were so happy that he visited our booth here in Chicago.

He offered the following message; "Chinmoyji was a great spiritual leader at the UN for many years... I cannot live without this booth! May peace prevail on earth."

Saphira Rameshfar, representing the Baha-i faith and Rev. Chloe Breyer the Executive Director of the Interfaith Centre of New York were also in attendance at the opening ceremony.

Imam Saffet A. Catovic sang an Islamic prayer at the opening ceremony. How wonderful that so many who joined together at the Peace Run opening ceremony over a month ago could now reconnect at the journey's close!

We were thrilled to be able to share The Peace Torch with people from all faiths and backgrounds.

Etincelle Divine came all the way from Gabon.

Walt Whitman & the Soul Children of Chicago took some time after their amazing performance to hold the Torch and offer some words about peace.

Members of the Tai Ji Men Qigong group hold the Torch while also upholding a dragon.

A spontaneous meeting of faiths occurred as many people began gathering around the Torch. Here there are representatives from Sikhism, Jainism, Hinduism and Catholicism.

An art exhibit with prints by Sri Chinmoy was featured among the different galleries.

The art was interspersed with Sri Chinmoy's poetry, in this series each poem begins with the word "Imagine".

Kushumita Pedersen, a trustee of the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions, nominated Swami Tyagananada for the Torch-Bearer Award, which we were so honoured to present to him today. He is a Senior Monk of the Ramakrishna Order, the head of the Vedanta Society in Boston and the Hindu Chaplain at Harvard University.

After receiveing the award, Swami Tyaganada said; "Peace comes from within and our ability to share peace and promote peace is greatly related to how much peace we can discover in our own heart. Sri Chinmoy's life and the great teachings and the promotion of peace that he did was both to promote the peace in our heart and the peace in the external world as well. It is my honest hope and prayer that through this initiative and the work that is being done by Sri Chinmoy's followers and friends all over the world that this great work of building peace continues so that the world will truly be a better place to live in as we move forward. It is a great honour, my gratitude and thanks to all of you." he then chanted a beautiful peace mantra in Sanskrit.

As luck would have it, we crossed paths with previous Torch-Bearer Award recipient Judith Trautman from Toldeo, Ohio!

Along with her late husband, Woody, she founded the Multifaith Council of NW Ohio. She said; "It's the nicest award I've ever received. I'm so happy to be at the Parliament, it's so nice to see people from all over the world that believe in love and compassion and peace. It's what will cure the world of anything."

Marina and Kapila held the Peace Torch while inviting people to the "Seven Minutes of World Peace" session.

Seven Minutes of World Peace, founded by Sri Chinmoy, is a simultaneous global invocation of peace that is observed by thousands of people around the world. It takes place each year on September 21st, from 9:00 AM - 9:07 AM EST when the Peace Bell rings at the United Nations. All are invited to join.

Tahreh Ziaian and Kapila Catoldi led a discussion where visitors from different countries shared their inspirational ideas for celebrating the International Day of Peace on September 21st.

In the warm and harmonious atmosphere, those in attendance were invited to meditate on peace for seven minutes in silence. A video of Sri Chinmoy leading a meditation for the staff and delegates at the United Nations was shown. To conclude, everyone chanted "Shanti" and "Peace" together.

Pavaka from Montreal and Parichayaka from Vienna offered a morning Mantra & Music session. Along with silent meditation and music, they taught those in attendance some Vedic mantras set to music by Sri Chinmoy. It was at once peaceful and powerful.

Upon holding the Peace Torch this woman said; "I feel like I'm experiencing the heatbeat of the earth."

Olive Tree Arts Network is an organisation that connects children of multiple faiths through the arts. They believe that exposure to diversity at a young age prevents future cultural and religious bias. Their mission is to promote understanding and cooperation through creative expression.

Julia Yob said; "Here's to people finding connections inside of the differences and beauty inside the disagreements."

Dr. Kellie N. Kirksey offered the following heartfelt message; "May the light of this flame touch every heart in our universe. May we all find peace, love and kinship in all of humanity."

Some new friends from Taiwan decided to run with the torch, up and down a nearby set of stairs!

These members of Green Faith walked over 200 miles from Kentucky to Missouri to ask the Presbyterian Church to divest from fossil fuels.

Jamini and her brother take a selfie before Langar.

Time for Langar! The Sikh community offers a free lunch every day at PoWR. It is fresh cooked, nutritious food served selflessly (and quickly!) with love.

On the first day, there was a torrential downpour and water was flooding into the tent! People immediately started gathering buckets which quickly filled up and were brought outside to dump out and then back in to fill ad infinitum. It was so moving to see people from all backgrounds working together to help the situation. It was an unforgettable moment.

The lunch servers and the musicians were unphased and carried on their service uninterrupted throughout all the action.

Many members of the Sikh community were eager to hold the torch and offer beautiful messages of peace.

Jasvinder Chawla (left) offered us the following message; "There is only one race, the human race. We're all together, we may look different, we may talk different but we are one. This is the message of the Sikh religion."

Bhai Shaib Mohinder Singh Ji (centre) holds the Peace Torch.

Carole, Marrianne and Penny representing Creation Spirituality had a simple message; "We need to realize that we are all one."

Valentino Hernandez said; "I think peace is something we'll have to work towards. Not so much in the outside world but more inside ourselves."

Dawn Roads from the Baha-i faith offered a message for the youth; "My advice to young individuals for peace and hope would be to be as open-minded as possible and to be curious, to be consciencious. To always be kind, to follow the golden rule and to be the helpers in their community."

John Joseph Mastandrea, a United Church Minister, said; "There is light inside every one of us to push back the darkness."

Ishaya

Jerome

Allen

Kurt

A new friend from Mexico!

Kathy Brown said; "Be the peace that you want to see. May you accept the peace that comes from our creator."

When Soyinka Rahim got the Torch in her hands she started spontaneously chanting "Peace, Love, Joy, Happiness, Health, Grace and Ease" several times over!

Rev. Dr. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki (left) had a message of very few words; "May peace prevail on earth."

Melonie from The Church of Latter Day Saints said she was happy to hold the Torch beside The Prince of Peace.

A new friend from Tibet offers his peace sign.

At this booth, they offered a one-minute meditation on peace. Their message was; "When the mind is at peace, the world is at peace."

Representatives from The Brahma Kumaris held the torch and Sister Judi offered the following message; "Peace has always been the sign that I'm being authentic and real. When I'm being real I feel very at peace with myself and I feel benevolent."

Etan is the author of several children's books. Our team member Brahmata read his book "What is God?" at the age of 8 and she still has it to this day.

We could not resist purchasing his book "What is Peace?"

The devotees at the Bhaktivedanta Institute booth were very kind and welcoming. They offered the following message; "May peace prevail in everybody's life, in everybody's heart on this planet, in humanity. In our thoughts, in our actions, in our goals. In every step, in every second of our life. We are very happy to be here, this is a place where you meet people who are striving to be good and spread goodness. Thank you for the work you all are doing."

Spiritual Playdate hosted a booth where we could paint on a lantern, they then string them all together with the message "we are all different beads on one string".

Spiritual Playdate also hosted the "Footprints for Fairness" installation where people could walk in a paste made of sidewalk chalk and water and create footprints of different colours.

Parveen Kaur said that her message for peace is; "Share what you have, whether that's material or physical or just sharing your voice or you platform, I think that goes a long way towards peace."

David Hall held the Peace Torch at PoWR in Toronto in 2018 and was happy to hold it again five years later.

Emily from the Himalayan Samarpan Meditation group said; "Peace is within you, peace starts from you. If all around you you can create a positive aura, that is how you can spread the peace, kindness and love."

The Compassion Consortium Animal Chaplain booth definitely had the best giveaway! Each person could choose a cute stuffed animal to hang on their bag, the hard part was choosing which animal as each one was more charming than the next. Their message was; "Peace is something that all sentient beings have the right to."

Holy cow!

The Peace Run team all got these socks to remember our special run from New York to Chicago!

What better way to end the journey than this amazing gathering at the Parliament of the World's Religions?

Connecting with all of these wonderful people from all over the world on the road and here in Chicago has given us new optimism, new hope and new life. We can see that we have a bright future to look forward to!

Torch carried by
Agraha Levine (United States), Ahavani Mullen (United States), Alakananda Lebedev (United States), Brahmata Michael (Canada), Ganapati Coleman (United States), Harita Davies (New Zealand), Jamini Young (United States), Kusumita Pedersen (United States), Lunthita Duthely (United States), Mananya Galante (United States), Marina Pak (Russia), Nandita Polissar (United States), Nayaja Perugini (Italy), Nayak Polissar (United States), Pavaka Richot (Canada), Pradhan Balter (United States), Pragati Pascale (United States), Ravipriya Kalat (United States), Rupasi Young (United States), Sukantika Donavan (United States), Tahereh Ziaian (Iran), Vasudha Deming (United States), Virangini Afzal (United States).  
Photographers
Brahmata Michael, Harita Davies, Tahereh Ziaian

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